IT’S UNDERSTOOD WITHIN the beltway that to remain successful, companies should lobby. As Apple learned the hard way, not having friends in Washington can backfire when the political winds are unfavorable. That’s a lesson fellow tech company Yelp has taken to heart, as they’ve dramatically boosted their Washington lobbying presence in the last few months.
Before this fall, it seemed as though Yelp didn’t think much of having advocates on the Hill, but that’s rapidly changing. In October, The Hill reported that the tech company hired its first lobbyist in Laurent Crenshaw, a former aide to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on the House Oversight Committee.
Unlike fellow tech companies like Google and Facebook, both of which have had a lobbying presence on Capitol Hill for years, Yelp is late to the lobbying game. But they seem intent on making up for lost time. Ars Technica reports that Yelp registered its first PAC with the Federal Election Commission on December 31st, a sure sign that the company intends to step into the influence game.
So on what issues will Yelp focus its lobbying efforts? As The Hill notes, Yelp depends on user-generated reviews, so it must ensure that it can host negative reviews of businesses without being vulnerable to libel suits. Further, Yelp is seeking the creation of a federal anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) law. Supporters of the bill argue that such lawsuits are used to intimidate users of companies such as Yelp who post negative reviews of businesses. By supporting an anti-SLAPP bill, Yelp would ensure that its livelihood (namely user reviews) is protected.
Of course, as The Huffington Post notes, Yelp will also likely lobby on many of the same issues that Facebook and Google have backed, in particular the Innovation Act, which seeks to curtail patent trolls and which passed the House of Representatives last month.
Will Yelp’s efforts pay off? History suggests that they will. As The Sunlight Foundation found in 2012, companies who lobby do better than companies that don’t, and with Apple’s advocacy face plant fresh in Silicon Valley’s mind, it seems likely that other tech companies will take Yelp’s lead.